Alissia Canady is a black woman from Kansas City’s east side. In the crowded primary race for mayor last year — there were 11 candidates — she was the only woman of color.
Canady, who is 40, came in third. But don’t call that outcome a failure.
Quinton Lucas was one of Canady’s opponents in the primary race to be Kansas City’s mayor. Lucas ultimately won the election, and made Canady the chairperson of the very prominent Tax Increment Financing Commission.
Canady has had a full career, working full-time since she was a junior in high school. She's been an attorney, former city council member, former beauty salon owner.
We sat down with her to learn how her personal story connects with her work, starting with why she decided to make a change in her professional life.
JOHNSON: What made you decide to make the transition from working in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office?
CANADY: The issues that they were dealing with, the high crime areas really wasn’t [about] crime. It was social and economic issues, dysfunctional families, high incidences of poverty, lack of access to basic needs and services, limited transportation options to get them to opportunities.
JOHNSON: What was it about working at AT&T right after high school that impacted your entrepreneurial spirit?
CANADY: Having being exposed to workers who had been displaced and found themselves in a situation where they didn’t know how to start over and they didn’t have four years to go back to school to get up their skillset to make comparable wages, gave perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise had as an 18-, 19-year-old.
JOHNSON: What did you further learn about diversity from having attended law school at the University of South Dakota?
CANADY: This little African American girl from the east side of Kansas City moved to rural South Dakota for a period of time. And it was the best decision because while I’m very thankful for the law degree that’s on the wall and the professional accomplishments that come from that, I’m most appreciative for the social orientation I gained from being there.
JOHNSON: You were one of the Kansas City Council members in the minority when the vote came to change the name of Paseo to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even though a vote reversed that council decision, do you feel your vote affected the city council primary?
CANADY: It’s hard to say, because I gained just as much support for my position from black and white residents as I did opposition.
JOHNSON: Is there another political office in your future?
CANADY: I’ve recently been approached by the state [Democratic] party asking me to consider a statewide seat. We’re pretty early in the discussions but I’m open to the idea. I’m excited and flattered as well but it has to make sense for me.
JOHNSON: You seem to have a very busy life. What helps you decompress?
CANADY: My baby girl Macie — my four-year-old Bichon. She’s such a joy. Public life and practice of law and all those things can be stressful. But Macie is just happy to see me whenever I show up. So she’s definitely one of the bright spots of my life.
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at email@example.com.